As far as job creation goes, there's little doubt that 2010 has been something of a disappointment. While we saw a couple of glimmers of light, it says a lot that the only thing that moved the headline number downward was temporary Census hiring. As we head into 2011 with an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, and some 15 million people out of work, it's more apparent than ever that we're not going to see any kind of rapid improvement in hiring. But that doesn't mean that things aren't going to get better—it's just going to take some time. And there will, of course, be opportunities for those who know where to look for them.
Without further ado, here are five predictions for the job market next year:
Unemployment: Here to Stay
This time last year, we predicted that getting unemployment below 9 percent would represent a "serious achievement." Unfortunately, that still stands for 2011. With the economy only just creating enough jobs to keep up with population growth—and government job-creation measures seemingly off the table—a rate of 8-point-anything is increasingly looking like nirvana.
More Professionals Head East
More American students looking to go into finance will be studying the Chinese language, because that's where the majority of financial services-related opportunities will be.
The trend will extend beyond banking to the accounting and consulting industries as well. PricewaterhouseCoopers intends to double its headcount in China over the next five years, meaning it will hire 10,000 new employees by 2015. And thousands of Deloitte's planned 50,000 new hires in 2011 will join the firm in the Far East.
Vocational Occupations Become More Popular
Skilled occupations that pay well yet don't require a higher-level education will become more desirable. That means more plumbers, more CPAs, more medical technicians. As enrollment and tuition rise at traditional four-year colleges, more people will look for lower-cost alternatives—say, community and for-profit colleges—that will allow them to gain vocational certification or training for those jobs without taking out crippling student loans.
Companies Keep Taking the Profits
If it ain't broke, don’t fix it. Many companies posted record profits on the back of cost savings this year, and are likely to continue that behavior into 2011. Having gotten used to doing more—and making bigger profits—with less in the way of manpower, if companies do decide to shovel any of their cash back into the economy next year, it's more likely to be for mergers and acquisitions than large-scale hiring programs.
So who's hiring?
Despite the doom, there are still some growing career fields. Healthcare is an obvious (and longstanding) one, but as the various provisions of Obamacare start taking effect—or being starved for funding—there are serious opportunities for consultants and policy experts as well.
Tech is another field that is likely to continue growing—with a particular emphasis on cyber security, thanks to government spending aimed at curbing the threat of cyber-terrorism and hacking.
Finally, 2011 may well be the year that "green jobs" switches from buzzword to reality—with the majority of new positions in green manufacturing and technology.